DRIVEN consortium visits Downing Street

On Wednesday 15th November, the DRIVEN consortium was given the chance to showcase its ground-breaking technology for the benefit of the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer at Number 10 Downing Street. This was as part of an event held by the government to launch a series of measures to support the continued growth and success of the UK’s world-class tech sector.

Prime Minister Theresa May is shown Oxbotica’s latest perception software – a people detector – at Downing Street.

DRIVEN project director Graeme Smith and Professor Paul Newman, Director of the Oxford Robotics Institute (ORI), drove one of the specially modified cars to Downing Street and showed Theresa May and Philip Hammond the technology behind it all. This included part of the camera and lidar laser array that provides data to enable Selenium, the autonomous software at the heart of the car, to drive the vehicle.

DRIVEN, which is in receipt of an £8.6 million government grant designed to stimulate the development of new technologies, is an ambitious and exciting project that will see a fleet of Level 4 autonomous vehicles being deployed in urban areas and on motorways, culminating in multiple end-to-end journeys between London and Oxford in 2019. By operating at Level 4 autonomy a vehicle has the capability of driving itself most of the time without any human input.

Speaking on the event, Graeme Smith said: “The DRIVEN project is making excellent progress and we are delighted to be able to demonstrate the fruits of our labours for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. The UK is at the forefront of the autonomous vehicle revolution, which promises to completely change how people travel and could be worth billions to the country in exports and investment.”

Speaking on the significance of the investment, Prof. Paul Newman said: “DRIVEN has benefitted from government backing and this money will help ensure the UK retains its place as the pre-eminent location for technological research and development. The technology we are developing and accelerating through DRIVEN is foundational stuff and we, as a consortium, are all set to reply it across the entire spectrum vehicles.”

Testing of the autonomous software and vehicles is currently underway at RACE’s AV test facility at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire. During testing, fully licensed and specially trained safety drivers, will be in the vehicles at all times, ready and able take over the driving if necessary.

DRIVEN will be organising a public demonstration of its self-driving vehicles on selected roads around Oxford in early 2018.   The next six months will see DRIVEN’s fleet of vehicles increase to four, with urban trials taking place around the streets of Oxford. By Q3 2018, there are plans that the fleet will be six-strong. The wide-area road testing of the fleet is due to start in late-summer 2018 across a range of environments including low-speed urban and higher speed long distance motorway driving.

The vehicles are fitted with a wide variety of technology, including Oxbotica’s Selenium autonomy software, lidar sensors, on board computers, and cameras.  Through its members at Telefonica and Nominet, the DRIVEN consortium is ensuring maximum security of this data to protect drivers and other vehicles from cyber security threats.

A key opportunity for the consortium and particularly global re/insurer XL Catlin and TRL (the UK’s transport research laboratory), is the development of a real-time risk model that enables a better understanding of how to improve overall system performance across a range of real-world conditions. By 2019, the consortium plans to have developed a ‘Real-Time Risk Model’ that uses information from the vehicle and the infrastructure to determine a level of risk.

Testing of data sharing with insurance systems is due to take place from January 2018 and will enable development of ‘Insurance in the Loop’, under which cover is granted automatically when the vehicle is in autonomous mode. The system has the potential to radically transform how insurance and autonomous vehicles will work together in connected cities.